The writers of the poetic books of the Bible devoted their time to teaching how to develop a Godly character, filling the volumes with wisdom on every trait that could possibly be thought of. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes’ authors utilize the majority of their writings on comparing a Godly trait to an ungodly trait, proving that what is of God is what is right. Two large issues that are discussed in both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is diligence vs. laziness and wisdom vs. folly and the two go hand in hand.
Proverbs 21:5 is just one of the many verses that discusses diligence and laziness. In this verse, it states, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Prov. 21:5, NIV). In this verse it makes it clear that only those that are persistent and hard working will see results, while those that are lazy will ultimately end up penniless. The teachings of these verses continue to use different metaphors and tactics to explain the same thing, reiterating it over and over. The idea is discussed through relationships, parenting, work ethic, etc, to prove that it is vital that one must be diligent in all aspects of his/her life, not just in pieces. Hindson wrote, “If these traits are unchecked, people can quickly find themselves in a state of ruin and poverty. Thus, for every person, a choice is presented through the reading of Proverbs between following the lifestyle of diligence or one of lazy indifference” (Hindson, 268). Ecclesiastes 10:18 plays off of these thoughts well as it states, “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks” (Eccl. 10:18, NIV). Again, the teachings here are reiterating, reemphasizing rather, how important it is to be diligent in your work because even the most menial tasks, such as fixing the leak in the roof, can ultimately cause bigger problems in one’s life. These readings are vital for one to become of good character – to become Christ-like – and the only way to God is through Jesus Christ.
Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 creates a wonderful parallel between diligence and wisdom as it states, “Words from the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness – and fools multiply words” (Eccl. 10:12-14, NIV). Just as diligence creates someone is hard working and profiting, so does one who bears wisdom with their tongue. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt” (Abraham Lincoln). Although this sounds foolish, it actually bears a lot of wisdom in it. What Lincoln is stating is the same as some of the simplest Proverbs, such as, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18, NIV). In these teachings, it is not only wisdom that is to be gained if one turns from their own folly, but also it is patience. Through my own reading and studying of these verses, I’ve noticed that it is not wisdom alone that must be gained, but patience to understand what wisdom even is. Only a wise person knows when to keep his/her mouth closed at the right times, and when to speak hard truths, but still with patience so that the other person can hear it without the aggression that would come from a defensive heart. Hindson wrote on pg. 269, “…it also deals with inner emotions and attitudes and the power these have in driving the affairs of life…powerful emotions have the power to destroy the whole person” (Hindson, 269). A foolish person will speak with their raw emotions devouring the person with their own pain, which in turn, ensues pain on the other person, and solves nothing. On the other hand, a wise person would understand that another has caused his pain. However, he will hold his tongue until calm and then speak with honesty and kindness.
That is what these teachings require of us. They require us to learn how to treat others with the kindness that they deserve even when we feel that they don’t deserve it because God gives us so much more grace than we could ever possibly understand. I know every day I have to ask for God’s forgiveness in at least three or four points in the day because I am not perfect. God expects it of each of His children to understand that not a single one of us is perfect and so we must treat each other with that understanding. We must also accept that of ourselves and work harder, be more diligent, in our lives, in our homes, in our parenting, because the results are so much stronger when we work it out with our own hands and our own minds. Through God’s grace. Through these teachings, we can understand better why it’s not only right, but better, to be diligent and wise in everything that we do in our daily lives.
Hindson, Edward. The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey.
NIV Life Application Study Bible. Proverbs to Ecclesiastes.